Stowe Boyd on the No Assholes Rule


Stowe Boyd’s blog is like golf or photography. There are some good shots, a few bad ones, and then, every so often, the magical, perfect shot that keeps you running back for more.

Not too long ago, he nailed the noisy blogosphere thing so well, I quoted his post like scripture.

Today, he talks about the downside of Advisory Capital and in the process gives a sermon that applies just as much to business, relationships and life. Much of what he says is completely consistent with my experience with business, both big and small. And much of what he says is equally consistent with encounters we’ve all had in conference rooms, board rooms and our neighborhoods.

Here’s the part that made me stand up and shout Amen this time:

“[O]nce rule #1 is broken — the “No Assholes” rule — then there is no hope. People can learn to moderate their behavior, but never their basic psychological makeup. Once they start [screwing] you over, there is no end, because if they rationalize doing it once they will always be able to go through the same thinking process again and again.”

This precipitating event for the violation of the “No Assholes” rule (a first cousin of my long held and often applied “That Just Ain’t Right” doctrine) is when someone has to choose between doing the right thing and the easy thing. Between telling the truth and saying what they believe is in their best interest. Some people will make the right choice, but many won’t.

And someone who lies about one thing is a sure bet to lie about the next thing, and the thing after that.

Stowe is generally correct that suing someone over a resulting breach of a contract is generally a waste of karma that only enriches the lawyers (of which I am one). Unless there is a lot of money at stake, our legal system often doesn’t provide realistic options for the wronged.

All you can do in that case is, as Stowe suggests, avoid the offenders like the plague. I have walked away from some big clients over the “That Just Ain’t Right” doctrine, and I have let budding friendships die on the vine for the same reason.

It’s not a perfect solution, but the more people who demand compliance with the “No Assholes” rule and the “That Just Ain’t Right” doctrine, the better off we’ll all be.